As doulas, we have many tricks and props we can use to help a mom be more comfortable and avoid unnecessary pain in labour. One of the most frequently used tools is the birth ball! The birth ball is just a regular exercise ball that you can purchase at any Walmart or sporting goods store. Read on to find out some of the ways we recommend using the ball during pregnancy, labour and in your postpartum period!
Let’s talk about baby positioning. The most optimal position for baby to be in when you start labour is called LOA. This position means baby’s back is against mom’s front on the left side. Baby would be looking at mom’s back. Alternatively, having baby’s back is against the mother’s back can lead to painful back labour contractions. Labour is often longer in this situation as well.
Towards the end of your pregnancy, the birth ball may be able to help ensure baby is in an ideal position. Doing exercises that create a “baby hammock”, like laying over the ball as shown below, is often recommended!
Another way to promote good fetal positioning is trying to maintain good posture during pregnancy. This can definitely be hard late in pregnancy when you get to the end of a long day and just want to lounge on the couch watching Netflix! But not to worry! You can still binge watch your shows, but try sitting on the birth ball instead of lying back in the recliner or slouching on the couch. Besides being able to maintain good posture, sitting on the ball and doing small hip circles and "figure-eights" with your hips can help lower the baby further down into your pelvis! A perfect option since we want baby nice and low when labour begins.
If during birth you experience back labour, we may recommend you have a few of your contractions (also known as waves or surges!) while in the hands and knees position. Having the ball to lean over takes pressure off your wrists, as well as allows you to gently rock or sway if you desire. In this position we, your doulas, have full access to your back to apply massage, counter pressure, hip squeezes, or to use a long piece of fabric called a rebozo to aid in additional comfort.
As your doulas, we may recommend labouring in an upright position to take advantage of gravity, which may help labour progress quicker. So, (unless you should be sleeping!) we usually recommend you are standing, walking, or sitting upright as much as possible while labouring. When it comes to hands-on comfort measures, the most common place a labouring mothers want to be touched is on her back. The birth ball can be a great place for her to sit, giving doula her or partner access to her back to provide massage or counter pressure, or to once again use the rebozo.
I had a newborn who much preferred to be bounced then to be rocked when he was fussy. The best way to soothe him was to swaddle him up tight and bounce away on my ball, as shown below.
Another great way to use your ball with your new baby is for gas relief! Laying your infant on the ball on their tummy, then gently rolling them back and forth, can help them pass gas or burp!
Once you have been cleared by your doctor you can start using your ball to strengthen your postpartum core. During pregnancy and in your initial postpartum period you want to avoid doing typical abdominal exercises, such as crunches, until you are fully healed and have been evaluated for diastasis recti. Diastasis recti is the vertical separation of your two sets of abdominal muscles. This is caused by your growing uterus pushing your muscles apart during pregnancy. Having diastasis recti can leave you with the "pooch" lower abdomen as well as cause pelvic floor dysfunction. While this condition is very common and usually treatable without surgery, doing certain exercises can make it worse. Please consult with your doctor or midwife before beginning any exercise routine after birth.
That said, there are many common exercises that can be done using your ball! Two of my favourites are planks on the ball (great for core strength without causing or aggravating diastasis recti) and wall squats.
These are just a few of the many ways we use the birth ball before, during and after the birth of your baby! The possibilities are endless, which is why we highly recommend purchasing one. For more information about choosing the correct size of ball, click here.
To end our celebration of World Doula Week 2017, we are giving away a birth ball! We like this Everlast Stability Ball because it is weighted, which makes it more stable. Head on over to our Facebook Page to enter the contest! The winner will be randomly chosen on April 3, 2017.
The word “doula” is derived from an ancient Greek word that is becoming increasingly more mainstream in today’s modern times. In ancient Greek the word means “female servant” and does not specifically have anything to do with childbirth.
In 1969 Dr. Dana Raphael first used the term doula in a study discussing how the role of a female caregiver during birth and postpartum had a positive impact on breastfeeding. The term became more widespread in the 1970s and 1980s as the role of a doula became broader but more defined. This was also a time in medical history when the birth process in North America had gone through dramatic changes. Birth had moved away from homes and midwives and became increasingly more medicalized. Micromanaged hospital births and an alarming amount of unnecessary interventions were seen only as amazing advances in modern medicine with no thought of the possible negative long-term effects. Many women did not want to birth this way and knew they would need emotional, physical, and educational support to give birth “differently” then most women of that time were doing.
While using the term “doula” to describe this type of support started in North America, and only in the last 50 years, the care provided by a doula is not a new concept. Throughout all of history, across most geographical locations and demographics, women have provided support to other women during birth; not just a single midwife, but usually multiple women fulfilling different roles during the birth. This was often family members or women of the village or tribe who had experience in childbirth.
Doulas now are held to a specific scope of practice. They are strictly non-medical professionals who can provide a wealth of educational, physical and emotional support for women during pregnancy, birth and the immediate postpartum period. Doulas now are not just women! A small but expanding number of doulas are men. As a profession, doula care is growing. Doulas are now able to create a sustainable career doing what they love. With more reputable training organizations and continuing education options available, a doula can offer even more support to expectant families.
The medical community is also backpedalling, their research showing that “less is more” when it comes to medical intervention and the powerful impact the role of a doula can have on both the physical outcome and emotional satisfaction of a birth.
Doulas today are also not just for birth! The role of a doula to provide educational, emotional and physical support is applied to many stages of life. Here are some of the most common types of doulas:
Birth Doulas provide support during pregnancy, birth and the immediate postpartum. This includes prenatal education and emotional support through email and phone communication, as well as prenatal meetings. During the birth the doula will be present, providing support to the laboring mother and her partner (and sometimes the couple’s other children, if present). After the baby has been born she is available to help with feeding support (breast or bottle), newborn care and questions the mom has about her postpartum recovery.
Postpartum Doulas provide education and practical support to the mother, newborn and family in the first days, weeks and sometimes months after birth! Their role continues where the birth doula left off. They are a wealth of knowledge about newborn care and tips. They also provide practical support such as light housework, cooking, running errands and tending to the newborn so the mother can rest, shower, or go out for some fresh air!
Fertility Doulas can help families who are struggling to get pregnant. They provide educational support by explaining the various tests, treatments and alternative care options available in their community for those facing infertility. She provides emotional support through the overwhelming disappointment and stress that often comes with going through fertility treatments.
A Bereavement Birth Doula has received special training to care for the emotional and physical needs of a family who is experiencing a loss through miscarriage, stillbirth, or an anticipated loss through a terminal diagnosis of an unborn baby. Like a birth doula, they can provide support during pregnancy, birth, and after the loss. In the days, weeks, months, (years!) after, this doula can help the family navigate the emotional waters of grief as well as connect them to other local resources.
End of Life Doulas support to people through the dying process, at any age. These doulas are commonly employed through hospices, hospitals and nursing homes. They provide companionship and encouragement to dying patients. They also provide comfort to the patients loved ones if present.
Doula work truly is a "labour of love". Regardless what stage of the human life a doula is supporting, the type of care remains the same. Compassionate, unbiased, nurturing care.
“The ancient Greek “doula” was there to listen and follow the wishes of the mother, offering her services and life experience, but also aware of the humbleness her position asked for.”
-[International Doula Journal, Vol. 21, Issue 1, 2013]
It goes without saying: labour is a natural, normal process. A woman’s body instinctively knows how to give birth. The releasing of hormones signals the body to begin labouring, guiding the process to work baby out into the world. It’s a wonderful thing! However, real talk: the fact that labour is natural and normal doesn’t nullify the fact that it does still cause some pain and discomfort. But as we tell our clients: there is “necessary” pain and “unnecessary” pain. These different types of pain might be totally new to you, so allow me to break it down…
This pain is driven by fear and tension. When we are scared or frightened we tense our muscles, this tension restricts oxygen to our muscles causing the sensation of increased pain. In labour, this pattern of fear and tension leads to even more pain and discomfort, and begins what we doulas refer to as the “Fear-Pain-Tension” cycle. When you fear you tense up, and when you tense up you experience increased pain. When you experience increased pain, you fear. So on and so forth…
This is the good kind of pain (yes, there IS a good kind of pain!) Rather than being driven by fear and tension, this pain is simply physiological. It is caused by the uterus contracting, the cervix thinning and opening, and the pressure of the baby’s head dropping downward. This is the body’s way of working a baby out, and a woman has to go through it to bring her baby earthside. This pain is generally manageable with focus, proper breathing, good support from your doula and partner, massage and other hands-on comfort measures.
So, how can you eliminate unnecessary pain in labour? Thankfully, there are a number of ways...
Find Good Support
For more information, or to book a free consultation, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to talk with you and help prepare you for the best birth possible!
We are super exited to be featured in this week's Orillia Packet & Times! The article, titled "Doulas Deliver Assistance to Mothers", touches on what a doula is and a little bit about what a doula does.
For more detailed information on what we do, please contact us for a free consultation! You can also join us on March 23 for our free workshop (also mentioned in the article) taking place at the Orillia Public Library. You can register for the event by visiting our home page!
To read the full article, click here.
Welcome to our new blog! To kick things off, we thought we'd introduce ourselves in a little more depth. Thanks for reading!
Sam & Alannah
I have lived in Ontario for about five years, after being born in raised in Des Moines, Iowa. I currently live in Orillia, with my husband Brian, our five year old daughter, Gia, and our one year old son, Waylon.
Like many doulas, my calling to childbirth education and doula care began with the birth of my first child. I had such an amazing, empowering birth experience that I knew I wanted to help other mothers and families have more satisfying births. My goal is to make sure parents-to-be have all the information and tools presented to them to make the best decisions for their own families.
As a doula, I support all mothers in childbirth; whether it is natural, medicated, or a scheduled c-section. I want to help you achieve the birth and postpartum that you hope to have!
Alannah is amazing. It is funny, because before she had even announced she wanted to become a doula, I thought about asking her to be at my son’s birth. She just has this warm, mothering energy about her that is such a calming force. She was made for doula work and I am so glad we have become partners!
So… 5 fun facts about me!
I was born and raised in Orillia and still call it home today! While I’ve lived in other places, there is something very special about Orillia that kept me coming back (now to stay!) The beautiful lakes, great parks and trails, fabulous main street… it’s a great place to call home and raise a family. I feel really blessed to be able to provide doula and placenta encapsulation services to my hometown and it’s surrounding areas!
I have two sons, Roman (2) and Isaiah (1), and have been married for seven wonderful years to my husband, Justin. It was the births of my sons that gave me the passion I needed to pursue birth work.
Sam was actually my doula for my first birth, so I can speak firsthand to how wonderful she is! She was a fantastic support (for both my husband and myself!), and it’s clear she has a true compassion for all the families she works with. Sam is a wealth of knowledge in all things birth-related and is truly an asset to anyone’s birth!
And now… 5 fun fact about me!